The Disdainful Disease of Distinguished Deeds

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A recently read a column from February of 2017 titled “The Disease of More” by Mark Manson, describes a cultural phenomenon of continually enhancing one’s life. Originally the “Disease of More” began as a malady described by basketball great Pat Riley, the leader of six NBA championship teams. To describe what happened to the teams and why they could not carry their success forward, Manson’s article reads:  “The players, like most people, want more. At first, that “more” was winning the championship. But once players have that championship, it’s no longer enough. The “more” becomes other things — more money, more TV commercials, more endorsements and accolades, more playing time, more plays called for them, more media attention, etc.”


I cannot find the quote I read as a young man, but I seem to recall a journalist asking one of the super-wealthy robber barons what they wanted, and they replied, just one word, “more.” I can’t find the “more” answer on Google, but it stays in my mind like an ear worm. This is not the place to launch into a Gordon Geckko homily on why everyone furiously seeking wealth is a great idea, other than to ask, what is it to gain the world and lose your soul?

But when you reach the top of the mountain, what is next? The astronauts of the Apollo missions, from what I have read, had “a hard time coming up with an encore” which makes perfect sense. You went to the moon, what’s next, cure cancer? You won the Nobel Prize, so what do you do after that? Sitting on laurels is really that uncomfortable?


Coming down to the ordinary (excuse me, extraordinary) person, you are successful in your chosen profession, you have the perfect partner, you have great friends, you are financially secure, you have a great work/life balance, and you have succeeded at mostly everything that you have attempted to accomplish in life, so what is next?


But what if you didn’t really get to choose a profession, you have what is called a job, your perfect partner summarily rejected you, your friends always seem to need you and are never around when you need them, you consider yourself financially secure if the end of the month comes and you still have a few dollars in your bank account, your work/life balance means you get to live at your workplace or be even poorer than you already are, and every attempt at even the most meager of accomplishments has resulted in crushing failure? How many of the ultra-successful understand the life of the unachieved?


Apparently, the ultra-successful are filled with immedicable grief, and I, for one, think that the rest of us should take a moment from our busy lives and give them the pity and consideration they so rightly deserve. Isn’t there something that you in your miserable life can donate to make these destitute denizens of humanity happier, since we already know that they still seek more money, or if you can, even donate some funds, and if you can’t donate funds, then donate some sweat to the over-achievers?   


What if what you are good at doing is what you were meant to do and should be doing? Being a brain surgeon and wanting to be a concert pianist is a great fantasy, but if you are good at something, will the pursuit of happiness compel you to reject your accomplishments and set off on yet another challenge, and if so, is it worth it? The “Disease of More” to me, represents people who have little understanding or appreciation of their favorable fates. I understand the desire to do more, and the motivation to conquer other challenges. To quote George S. Patton: “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” My favorites are the rock stars who want to be movie stars and the movie stars who want to be rock stars, both of which I will reveal no names. The movie stars are trying to learn arpeggios and the rock stars are trying to learn how to cry on demand. Sometimes one’s aspirations are beyond one’s skill set.


I am all for the ultra-successful to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to therapists to assuage their grief, but I don’t see them giving up everything that makes them comfortable in order to prove themselves again. In many instances, you don’t know what you have until it is gone. Dissatisfaction in life is a great motivator, and I’m not telling people to necessarily rest on their laurels, but I’m certainly telling those who are successful to appreciate what they have earned. Every significant event in your life will alter your perception of life. Every exhilarating event of your life will fade into the mosaic of your life, hopefully with fond memories.  


To quote Patton: “For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”


If you truly appreciate what you have, and what success has done for you, you’re not likely to catch “The Disease of More.”


Uncompensated Endorsement




Leroy Added Dec 29, 2018 - 10:11pm
Another fine article, Jeff.
Those dastardly disciples of davantage d'avantages deserve our disdain and discouragement.  I've known people with an obsession for showing they had more than anyone else to the point of not paying taxes in their business.  They lived the high-life for awhile.  But, perhaps it is not those who concern you.  I suppose that I have never known the super ambitious, ultra-wealthy people.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 29, 2018 - 10:34pm
Thanks Leroy. I am afraid that the ultra-achieved are deeply concerned about making themselves even better. While that's great and all, there are many more that haven't achieved much, and would like to have just a small portion of what the ultra-successful have attained, such as a reliable car, a job that allows them to take several vacations a year, the money to actually travel during those frequent vacations, a nice home with up-to-date appliances, money to finance their offspring's college, newer, fine-fitting clothes, and other things. I am afraid that too many people in this society (and other societies) cannot appreciate what they have, especially when 90% don't have anything near what they have. I sincerely believe that they're really not seeing what they have, nor are they appreciating the same. Appreciating achievement and attainment of assets has an alienated  segment from reality  whose constant improvement refuses to acknowledge success. Thanks Leroy interesting response.
BTW, the sports metaphor describes people who do not appreciate success and their lack of appreciation leads to failure. The point being the lack of appreciation of success by those who think they deserve more leads to failure. While the NBA might be a sport, I would like to see anyone deny that they are a multi-million dollar business as well.
Ward Tipton Added Dec 30, 2018 - 7:55am
How much is enough? Always just a little bit more! Human nature or just life?
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 31, 2018 - 9:49pm
Thanks for your comments Ward. Maybe a little bit more, alright. But there are lots of folks that never get anything close to those who attain the highest of achievements. I can't speak for others, but I have met incredibly talented people who never had a chance for success, for whatever reason. I know that there are people who would deeply appreciate many of the rewards of success, and, perhaps, they too would crave more once they attained success, validating your human nature suggestion.
However, the obsession of "more" begins to permeate people's thinking, and, when on teams, their personal interests override those of the team, and then the team loses. My use of the term team is not limited in any way to just sports.
In my personal life, I have witnessed those whose efforts for success created significant problems for the team, and the team would have been better without them. They weren't willing to "take one for the team" and the team lost, along with them, after which, of course, they blamed the failure on the team. I think a lot more folks need to be happy with what they have, especially when compared to those who don't have much of anything. Victory is fleeting, and none of those Roman conquers did it all by themselves. Thanks Ward.
Marty Koval Added Dec 31, 2018 - 9:49pm
Very interesting article and thanks for sharing it.
Many of these people who have the disease of more have a huge void in their lives and do not recognize it. These people are never satisfied. If they have a little, they want more. If they have a lot, they want still more. Once they have more, they wish they could be happy with little, but are incapable of making the slightest effort in that direction.
This void that they have in their lives cannot be filled with self seeking pleasures, worldly stuff or activities, which are short term. These people are this way because they haven't met God the Father. Only God can truly satisfy all our desires via the Holy Spirit residing in our hearts. This produces joy, which is a right relation with God and is long lasting. It is not something people can create by their own efforts.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 31, 2018 - 9:52pm
Thanks Marty, and you have an excellent point in that satisfaction is granted by God, and those who insist that they got where they are without God are probably never going to be satisfied. Thanks Marty, excellent point.
Ryan Messano Added Jan 1, 2019 - 1:11am
Proverbs 15:16 "Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith."
Katharine Otto Added Jan 1, 2019 - 9:01pm
I realize you are writing mainly about people wealthy by conventional standards, but the disease of more affects people at all levels of society, such as the hoarders.  I know several people who can't seem to get rid of anything, and even I have a constant battle with the excess that seems to cram its way into every nook and cranny.  Nature abhors a vacuum, I hear.  
As I get older, I find myself making a strenuous effort to pare down, if only so that heirs won't have to go through all the junk that only I liked.  Or the things that have outworn their usefulness.
There's much to be said for the streamlined, ascetic, life, one of simplicity, but our commercial society thrives on shaming people into acquisitiveness.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 1, 2019 - 10:07pm
Thanks for your comments Katherine. I think mostly poor people hoard things, and one other group. My mother grew up during the Great Depression. When you've had everything taken away from you, you hoard things because, in the back of your mind, it can happen again. I got my hoarding legitimately, from my mother, who has lots and lots of stuff that we'll have to go through at some point, hopefully a long time from now.
The other point is our constant need to improve ourselves. At some point we must accept satisfaction. I like constant improvement, and am myself a lifelong learner, a point which can be easily documented by unquestionable credentials. Thanks for your comments Katherine, excellent point.
Katharine Otto Added Jan 1, 2019 - 10:43pm
In my comment, I was also thinking of parents who grew up in the Great Depression.  Maybe hoarding is the not-so-rich man's bank account, a reaction to the fear of having nothing.  
It seems that the drive to do more or be more crosses all social and economic lines.  I have some of that, too, but it feels like a nagging voice that tells me I'm not enough or not doing enough, no matter what the situation.  
You can look at it many ways.  Is it insecurity, a feeling of something lacking, or is it a desire to fulfill potentials or imagined potentials?  It can translate into material things, accomplishments, credentials, or "friends" on Facebook.  
Recently I've made a conscientious effort to slow down and simplify, but it makes me feel at odds with the culture, which seems to be in a frenzied state.  The constant demands on attention seem to come from a needy society desperate for "more" air time and "more" elbow room at the expense of others' peace.
Dave Volek Added Jan 1, 2019 - 11:14pm
In my first year of party politics, I had ambitions of becoming an elected politician. But after I saw the lifestyle, I decided it was not for me. I just don't like being around people 14 hours a day. 
Most politicians belong to the ultra-success mindset. Maybe it's time we had a more laid-back system of governance: something you or I might get elected to. 
A. Jones Added Jan 1, 2019 - 11:16pm
I cannot find the quote I read as a young man, but I seem to recall a journalist asking one of the super-wealthy robber barons what they wanted, and they replied, just one word, “more.”
I had always heard that remark in reference to labor leader John L. Lewis, president of the coal miner's union, United Mine Workers. While leading a strike, a journalist asked him what he wanted for his union. He simply said, "More."
Mircea Negres Added Jan 2, 2019 - 2:58am
Excellent article, Mr. Jackson. If I had enough money so that I never had to work again, I would retire. My idea is to have a cabin outside a small town in some mountains with a decent collection of books, one of booze, a decent rifle in case a bear wants me for breakfast, a pistol in case things get close quarters, a hooker on retainer and to tramp across the mountains, to live life quietly without ever having to justify myself to anyone. Short of winning the lottery, my best hope right now is to finish my first novel, and maybe get lucky with sales and movie or a series deal. It's not much, but this is what I've got. A friend of mine was too much into the corporate greed thing. He kept it together at work, but at home he was disintegrating. Then he lost his job (a subordinate screwed up, the client called him to sort it out and he showed up drunk) and to him it seemed like his world was ending. I thought because he had too much work and not enough life. He didn't understand why people did the things they did and lacked comprehension of the source and nature of power, as well as how to use it, so I sent him some photos of books I've read. They were long and short reads, but thinking about them and understanding what they were about would've kept him busy for a long time. "Welcome to the first day of the next twenty years of your life" was the last thing I told him. He got his job back, then committed suicide on 21 December. I was informed about it on the 28th, and went to the funeral (closed casket) on the 29th. I miss my friend, a casualty of the "disease of more", and really liked this article. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 5:17am
Yes, Dave, politics is  a full-time job, and many of the career politicians would not do anything else. Even term limits has not stopped many politicians who just trade one elected position to another. They keep returning in another position, at least in my state, and I wish they would retire. I seem to spend a lot of time in front of computers, usually seeking an answer or composing an answer. I admit to having aspirations, and certainly think there is more for me, but mostly because of training for specific positions, not just dreaming it will happen without considerable effort. Thanks Dave, I think you're too honest for the game of politics.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 5:22am
A. Jones, you might be right. I'm doubtful I could make a career deep in the bowels of the earth, and I am convinced miners are truly brave people. They deserve compensation on the scale of their efforts. Of course, a lot of strip-mining has saved lives, but really messed up the landscape. There's a balance there somewhere. Thanks for your comments A.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 5:30am
Thanks Mircea. I think finishing your novel is a great aspiration and certainly within your skill set. If they offer you movie rights, make sure and get legal council or someone who can strike a good deal for you, as the movie business (lots of folks aspire to it) can be brutal, and signing the wrong paper can be miserable. I like that you aren't looking to conquer too many worlds, just to have a nice world that you can call your own. I share those feelings.
I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Too much work, even work you love doing, causes an imbalance in any life. If your novel just satisfies you, then it has satisfied the most important person in the world. Thanks for your comments Mircea.
Stone-Eater Added Jan 2, 2019 - 7:02am
That desire to be more and get more is a simple untreated inferiority complex ;)
George N Romey Added Jan 2, 2019 - 8:09am
Excellent article Jeff.  Post WW2 brought a land of abundance and consumption.  For that almost magical 30 year period following WW2 the formula worked well.  Americans workers were well paid and could continue to have "more."  It was the mantra of success, happiness and reward.
Ultimately we as a nation kept the formula going but added in debt, lots of it.  But debt is a short term fix and becomes more problematic as it grows. 
Maybe we need a paradigm shift away from "more."  Some Americans have, like myself and Katharine.  Most have not and given the way consumer debt has soared over the past 10 years we as a nation still think the "American Dream" can be financed.  
Where this all leads is any body's guess.  But I get the feeling we will need to suffer through a 21st century style Great Depression before Americans finally give up the idea that "more" is the road to a self fulfilling life.
Dino Manalis Added Jan 2, 2019 - 8:53am
 People are never fully satisfied, be thankful for what you have!
opher goodwin Added Jan 2, 2019 - 9:31am
A great article Jeff. It is truly a disease. Watching the TV series about the Gettys was revealing of that attitude. There is never enough to make them happy.
The worst is when someone achieves their pinnacle at an early age - like many sports or Rock stars - and then, for the rest of their lives it is all mediocrity. They descend into drink and drugs.
The saddest thing is that these people are directing society and destroying the planet in the process in their relentless pursuit of more.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 2, 2019 - 10:02am
another great one Jeff :)  Puts me in mind a bit of the old Silverstein morality tale: never be the roller when there's nothing left to roll :)
Steel Breeze Added Jan 2, 2019 - 10:19am
to me,the problem for most is not settling for just being content,instead striving for some fairy tale state of "happy"......after all,we are born,tread water until we cant,and sink,thats all.....
Doug Plumb Added Jan 2, 2019 - 10:44am
Aristotle talked about this. His answer is to pursue wisdom, you can never have too much and its always useful. Even love for the perfect woman fades. Wisdom and the desire for more never fades. I can seriously entertain the idea of suing my bank, this after reading about law and philosophy since 2001. Its also very satisfying and I feel quite rich, despite having only a bike to ride around on - that I don't mind a bit. Prior to this change, I was pretty much an idiot wrt the higher learnings and the world around me.
Doug Plumb Added Jan 2, 2019 - 10:47am
If you are unhappy because you don't have enough then you need help because everyone who can sit here and do this on a computer has enough.
opher goodwin Added Jan 2, 2019 - 11:03am
Dino - Wisdom and appreciation of beauty coupled with creativity - they are the things you can't have too much of.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Jan 2, 2019 - 12:21pm
Being the war buff that I am, I admired Paul Allen's efforts to restore WW2-era aircraft and vehicles and to find wrecks like the USS Indianapolis. There are those who feel he should have spent his money on breast cancer research, but I'd rather see a Fw 190 in flying condition than a bunch of misshapen tits any day of the year, lol.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 2, 2019 - 12:34pm
The quote was from an interview with John D. Rockefeller. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:01pm
Yes, Stone, I can see people with low self-esteem trying to compensate by gaining more and more material goods. I guess they really need therapy, and hopefully they'll get the right treatment and the therapist can expand their bank account. Thanks Stone, glad you're still here!
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:06pm
Great comments George, and absolutely no doubt that keeping up with the Joneses has caused a lot of debt and grief. Id rather drive a five year old paid off car any day while my neighbor drives a brand new car and is making payments every month. You'd have to be pretty far down the ladder to try to keep up with me; I'm not upscale, I'm downscale, along with my colleagues who are racing to the bottom. Thanks George, great comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:07pm
Yes, Dino, I'm pretty happy with what I have, because I'm quite familiar with not having it. Thanks Dino.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:21pm
Superb observation opher, with the young and successful not being able to cope with failure. I hear of young people in professional schools who can't make the grades and end up hurting themselves because they have never failed at anything before in their lives. Drugs and booze have killed off many a career of successful young people.
I think more people should consider a sabbatical, take a year to study and regroup, but that's just me. One of the symptoms of burnout is when what you do no longer means anything to you. I see the managers realizing this, but the workers are required to keep on until they burnout, at which time they are replaced. We need to reconsider work. Thanks opher.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:23pm
Thanks Burghal, I'll keep looking for something to roll on, and when that wears out, I'll rock. Thanks Burghal.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:25pm
Thanks Steel. I think more than a few of us have set goals too high and drown in our efforts. I'm not sure they know just how big the pool is before they dive in. Thanks Steel.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:26pm
Doug, you mean that perfect thing is going to fade? That today's perfection fades into mediocrity? Man, this search for perfection gets harder and harder. Thanks Doug.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:31pm
Well, Major, I think diversity is important, and that FW 190 might teach someone in a way that no one ever thought of. What we get out of things varies so much from person to person that diversity makes for a much richer society. Many times as a teacher it isn't that you gave the student anything, you simply brought out what it was that they had all along. Thanks Major, love the graphic.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:35pm
Thanks Ward, I knew it was one of those guys. I owe you one. I'll try to dig up some strange fact somewhere in some lost forgotten journal for you. Thanks again.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:42pm
I am a virtual host of pointless trivial knowledge. 
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:44pm
@ Jeff - Many times as a teacher it isn't that you gave the student anything, you simply brought out what it was that they had all along.
Brilliant! That reminds me of what someone said about Julius Caesar; although he was a great leader himself (up to the point he was bumped off), what is not noticed is that he had a talent for identifying and developing talented people...of course, not the kind who would assassinate him, lol.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:49pm
The new avatar works Michael :)
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Jan 2, 2019 - 1:54pm
@ TBH - Enjoy it while it lasts, hahahahahahahahaha!!!! I'll take a toke in your goes...sssssssssssss.....cough, cough.....ahhhhhhhh!
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 2, 2019 - 2:39pm
ya don't get off until ya cough, bro :) Well done! Hope that you are enjoying some fine Flowering Dogweed from the botanical labs of Carlton Milhouse
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Jan 2, 2019 - 3:36pm
@ TBH - One of my favorite scenes from Jackie Brown:
Whiskey River Added Jan 2, 2019 - 4:06pm
I have never understood the "keep up the Jones" problem so many have. I worked hard, I will never want for anything, so why do people question how I live? I live in a fishing shack about 5 minutes from the boat ramp at a great bass lake. People ask me why do I live in a fishing shack, you have money you can afford a much nicer home. Why was my money? My shack is comfortable, has everything I need and it is paid for. I'm divorced, children are grown, I don't need a 4 bedroom 2 bath house anymore so it got sold and here I am.
People ask me why I drive an old pickup with 350,000 miles on it, I can afford a new one. Why waste $30,000 on a new pickup when there is nothing wrong with the one I own? It starts when I want it to start, goes when I want to go, stops when I want to stop. And it only costs me a few hundred in maintenance costs each year. What more do I need? 
I see so many older people today who are in their 60's and they still have a mortgage payment. Both are driving new cars they are paying on. And they cannot figure out why they don't have enough money to retire. I'm 65, been retired for 10 years, and have enjoyed every minute of it. All because I never had the desire to keep up with the Jones. It isn't hard to figure out folks. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2019 - 4:28pm
Congratulations on a  well-planned retirement Whiskey, and a lifestyle that you should document and sell to the envious Americans who can't get enough. You could be a retirement planner, telling everyone the first step is examine what you really need, not what you need to keep up with your neighbors. Sounds like you have a nice life, with all of your needs taken care of. Thanks for your comments and advice on how to be happy, maybe it will get through to a few of these folks.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 2, 2019 - 4:32pm
Biggest benefit of driving an old pickup? People do not tend to pull out in front of you or challenge your right to your lane when driving, figuring you probably do not care if they hit you. 
George N Romey Added Jan 2, 2019 - 4:34pm
The American Psyche that formed with the Baby Boomer generation was you are what you own.  A person's worth is judged by possessions.  Unfortunately I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Sometimes as people get older they get wiser, sometimes not.  I drive a 14 year old Cadillac. It gets me where I'm going in comfort and power.  But I know some look down on what I drive.
As long as we have a nation, society and economy based upon "private property" (which is our form of capitalism) people will judge and value based upon possessions.  Private property will bring this attribute out in human character.
Ric Wells Added Jan 2, 2019 - 11:24pm
Jeff to me once you can differentiate between need and want life becomes pretty simple and extremely fulfilling.
Stone-Eater Added Jan 3, 2019 - 8:05am
I guess they really need therapy, and hopefully they'll get the right treatment and the therapist can expand their bank account
Stone-Eater Added Jan 3, 2019 - 8:06am
people will judge and value based upon possessions
A good example why sometimes it's good NOT to follow majority behavior. Even when it's only for your mental sanity and not for your pocket.
Marty Koval Added Jan 3, 2019 - 8:27am
Your comment about not to follow majority behavior reminded me of the dangers of groupthink and herd mentality.
Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people's common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion. Here, the desire for group cohesion effectively drives out good decision-making and problem solving.
It also reminded me of herd mentality, which one consciously or unconsciously follows the group of people. The danger here is that the leader of the herd is going over the cliff and the herd foolishly follows along.
FacePalm Added Jan 3, 2019 - 8:25pm
Another interesting article, Jeff.
i read a story once that seems to comport well with the "more" story you told.
A famous writer was invited to a billionaires lavish estate for a party among the glitterati; the owner took great pride in showing off the grounds, the statuary, the swimming pool and tennis courts, the apiary, then taking them inside, to show them his artwork, tapestries, and furnishings, all exquisite.
The writer was unimpressed.
Sensing this, the billionaire confronted the writer, asking him directly, "So, what do you think?"
"I have something you'll never have and can't get," he replied.
"No way," exclaimed the billionaire; "What could you POSSIBLY have that i can't get?"
"Enough," replied the writer.
Stone-Eater Added Jan 4, 2019 - 6:25am
Exactly ! Good comment. And I just noticed Whiskey's comment too. He's exactly on the same wave length as me in that regard. I also don't have any debts or mortgages, live very modestly in Switzerland and when I move to Senegal this year I'll be slowly constructing my little house close to the beach. There are no mortgages in Africa. You've paid - it's yours. All you pay then is the 99-year lease of the land - about 100$ a year. That's all.
Stone-Eater Added Jan 4, 2019 - 6:28am
Brilliant :-)))
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 4, 2019 - 10:18pm
Thanks Face. That sounded a bit like The Great Gatsby at first, where the millionaire wants the one thing he can't have. It seems lots want what they can't have, and there is nothing that they can get that satisfies their yearnings. Thanks Face.

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